Re: [asa] Altruism and ID

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Wed Jun 13 2007 - 16:34:41 EDT

The likelihood of my having continued interest to 'discuss' altruism and ID with Pim much after this is very small.
  My apparent confusion is Pim's intrusion. Is he really so stubborn and full-of on-line debate and insult throwing against ID and ID advocates that he won't pause for a moment and simply admit: concepts are not biological entities?
  "the concept of altruism evolved, refers to how scientists and philosophers have learned more and more about altruism and the meaning of altruism has gained various meanings." - Pim
  Let's apply a linguistic analysis to this paragraph: the word 'evolved' is linked with 'more and more' - this has been called the 'progressivist' legacy of evolutionary philosophy. 'Scientists and philosophers learn' suggests that science and philosophy is 'evolving,' i.e. getting better, i.e. progressing - new knowledge is added to our understandings. The passive voice is twice used: 'have learned' and 'has gained' - such language is consistent with evolutionary philosophy that underpriviledges human agency. 'Various meanings' - this acknowledges that many fields of study can attach meaning to the concept of 'altruism.' O.k.
  Now that the linguistics is addressed, let's start conceptualizing! The concept of evolution may CHANGE, but it does not EVOLVE. A concept is not a bio-physical entity! Ideas are not physical things; don't listen to the philosophy of Marx as an authority here. Let those who are conversant in ideas, as a profession, take priority over naturalists (Wilson, Trivers, Dawkins, et al.) who have ideological bones to pick with an altruism rooted in religious understandings of the place of human beings in the universe. Pim's definition of altruism seems devoid of any reference to spiritual wisdom; the evolution of humanity is an entirely physical process and the ethics of human life are reducible to genes! Where is God in Pim's version of 'science says' altruism?
  Meanings are indeed constructed, filtered through human knowledge, feeling and experience. Reason, emotion and fantasy are involved together. Let's not package off our knowledges and understandings so quickly. It is not so cut-and-dry as a physicist/physical oceanographer might imagine it.
  There is much more to this than simply 'science has discovered...' - it gets at the fundamental meanings, values and purpose of science in contemporary societies, and the importance of philosophical and theological knowledge and even wisdom in forming our collective and individual identities.
  Why natural scientists should be given priority in Pim's personal study of altruism is a mystery. It seems to me that, caught within a paradigmatic box of evolutionism, he merely reinforces the Enlightenment view that reason and science will lead to progress.
  Now Pim, of course, has the opportunity to explain how he doesn't actually adhere to my caricature of him, rather than simply lashing out at what he thinks is apparent confusion on my behalf. That is, he could act Christianly, with charity and grace, which fits with his study of altruism.
  Yes, of course I have incomplete knowledge (please excuse economics language, thanks to Hayek) about Pim's motivations. But I still don't see why he doesn't search for meanings, values and purposes attached to the concept and/or ideology of 'altruism' that are more consistent with Christian thought rather than allying himself (by this I mean quoting others as if they are 'real' authorities) with Wilson, Trivers, Smith, Dawkins and others who would deny the influence of religious thought on altruistic behaviour. Such a position seems to me ultimately untenable and contra la mission de ASA.
  p.s. Pitirim Sorokin - The Ways and Power of Love (1954)
PvM <> wrote:
  Various people have suggested that I expand on my thesis as it may be that Gregory's confusion can be resolved by some simple statements

First of all, Gregory, I thank you for your questions in email, I am
however not interested in pursuing a discussion with you via private
email. I stand by my observation that ID is a negative argument, and
scientifically vacuous. I doubt that there are few reasons to argue
that the first is not the case, and the second issue is almost self

As to the issue of evolution of concepts, there are of course two very
different issues being confused here. Let me clarify.

The statement: the concept of altruism evolved, refers to how
scientists and philosophers have learned more and more about altruism
and the meaning of altruism has gained various meanings. The
statement: altruism evolved refers to the observations that natural
selection can indeed explain altruism, and certainly kin altruism and
reciprocal altruism, which are two specific forms of altruism. For
altruism to be genetically selectable, there needs to be a genetic
component, and this is what science seems to have uncovered.

Quite fascinating if you ask me.

And no, I am not in favor of evolutionism or any other of Gregory's
ill founded claims.

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Received on Wed Jun 13 16:35:15 2007

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